Tuesday, February 27, 2007

C.(ulinary) S.(cene) I.(nvestigation): Palena (Course 2)

SVR-Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi (With a Bolognese style meat sauce and shaved pecorino cheese)

JFW-Braised Beef Shortribs, "Sauerbraten" (With glazed root vegetables, quince, and chestnuts)

SVR had the famed gnocchi. I have to say, they fell a little short. The gnocchi were a little too, er, pasty. That's what my notes say, but I can't quite remember more of how to describe the texture and or effect. The Bolognese was chunky and not a ragu. Dunno if that's Ruta's twist on the sauce or if chunky is the authentic approach. In any case, the meat was on a small dice and was okay. The tomato flavor was prominent and pronounced and fresh and deep. The dish was fine, but I don't think it stood up to all the rave reviews I've read elsewhere.

I had high expectations of my second course. The 'sauer' was very, very sour. Again, I think this was the chef showing off his in-house meat curing mastery. Unlike Central's perfect, boneless short rib execution, Palena left the bone in and, not surprisingly, I felt cheated of meat. The bone was just too prominent and so the meat came across tiny. The root vegetables were a welcomed winter touch and the quince paste was cloyingly sweet, but the right flavor to temper some of the 'sauer.' The chestnuts were mashed and added a nice feel and texture to the arrangement.

C.(ulinary) S.(cene) I.(nvestigation): Palena (Course 1)

SVR-Pennsylvania Raised Rabbit (Boneless saddle stuffed with herbs and hazlenuts with mostarda di frutta, pickled beets, and mustard glazed endive.)

JFW-Juniper Scented Chicken Consomme (With poached quail egg, truffled trofiette pasta, veal tongue, and slivers of foie gras. With some tender vegetables as garnish.)

The rabbit rocked. I hate dry, white rabbit. I guess the saddle is a darker cut and it was tender and adequately fatty and rich. All condiments were nice pairings, though the beets (I believe) were a bit too sweet. The other flavors couldn't quite stand up to the sugar. The mustard was perfectly pungent. Overall...a well-executed and decadent starter.

My consomme was surprisingly good. As expected, the liquid was a pale and transparent yellow. Thin in viscosity, the flavor and density was still extraordinarily rich. It's incredible how a liquid can pack such depth of flavor. All add-ins were also of distinct flavor and texture. The trofiette was almost like spaetzle. The slivers of foie gras were amazing. In most of my foie gras experience, it's seared. Good as that can be, with a nice crust on the outside yielding a near molten center, this duck liver was more lively and complex. It seemed to be less of meat and more of earth. The texture was beautifully silken and it seemed like it had gone through a poaching process in the consomme. There were some sweet overtones and I could've easily downed a few more 'slivers.' The veal tongue was also very special. Taking after the Jews in my family who love(d) schmaltz and marrow and liver and beef tongue, I was by no means afraid of the chunks of pink baby cow tongue floating around in my soup. Believe it or not, the tongue was light. It was spongey, but airy. It was fluffy, but still rich. It was kinda like the best piece of pastrami you can imagine. It was obviously house-cured. It was tangy and also, like the broth and the liver, adequately rich. The vegetables were all nice enough and a nice counterpoint to the rich meats. The quail egg was also a nice touch...as breaking the yolk added further depth to the broth.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Long overdue

A long overdue update. For starters, I've got some time to sit down at the 'puter because riding is out of the question right now. Here's a glimpse of the outside.

Not safe to be out on the roads right now. And as of 3PM, I've still not dragged my ass onto the trainer. Doesn't look promising for me.

Yesterday, I hit Skyline for an early season climbing expedition. Went out there with some new partners...Dave Crouse and Kyle Murphy. Rode a bunch with Kyle this 'cross season, but had never hit the roads with him. I was in good company yesterday and we made a pretty mellow day of it. Ride time was 4:15 and we put in about 64 miles. That rate of speed is, obviously, nothing to write home about, but I think the climbing didn't hurt my fitness, no matter how long it took.

Moving on...had two quality meals on the homefront last week. Tuesday, I did up some trout. Was hoping for more success on the grill pan, but the trout didn't hold up so well to the technique. Still came out tasty, paired with mashed butternut squash, some jasmine rice, and an awesome salad of fresh horseradish, radishes, spinach, cider vinegar, and olive oil. Check it...
The next evening, I put the grill pan to better use and hooked it up with some nice NY strip steak (I think that was the cut). Cooked 'em to just the right temp. Re-used some of the squash and also served a few Yukon Golds. Those things are dope...so buttery and rich and sweet.

The highlight meal of the past few weeks, however, was mos' def' the Palena blowout. It went down a few weeks ago at this point, so let's see if I can still muster some impressions and details.

On the numbers front, SVR opted for the four course option and I went with five. In the end, SVR left a little of each of her courses, so I probably came home with seven courses in my belly!

Turns out, I'm gonna divide this report into several parts. Check back for the installments.

Meantime, I can't tell you why the hell I have such a hard time formatting these posts to include photos.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Another weekend of gastronomic gusto

Just secured reservations at Palena for this Friday. It fell out of favor for me a while back, as the cafe section is perpetually jam-packed. Seems like, even as a local who tries to go at odd hours on odd days, the wait is always way too long. Further, the cafe options don't quite seem worth it these days. I'm sure the roast chicken is still better than most things in this world, but I'm past the wait.

I should mention I once splurged and, whilst seated in the cafe, went full bore and ordered a fixed price meal...like, the real deal for which Ruta is held in such high regard. Still, though, I've never made the reservation for the main dining room. I've never shown up anticipating the proper menu. Friday, though, I will. I hope to offer a useful report.

Saturday's meal might not register as high on the *bling*-o-meter, but I've always had wonderful food at Montmartre. It's on tap Saturday night.

I'm looking at nearly six hours on the bike for the weekend, so I should be able to order duck and pork belly and creme brulee and other fatty stuff without too many cares in the world.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Also...I haven't ridden this many consecutive days in, well, maybe...years. I'm on day eight and working towards ten. Two to go and then I get a well-deserved rest day. Further, the past six days have all been indoors...on the bloody trainer. I keep telling myself it should all pay dividends down the road. Like JB mentioned a few weeks ago, hopefully this is TSTWKT. If it doesn't, it still hurt real bad, like. And that's good, right?

Anyhow, I'm excited for two days out of doors.

I want to improve, I want to go fast, and I'd like to win. Rookie as it was, the win at Race Pace was really memorable. I'd like to ride off the front again and I'd like to hold out for the W. Maybe...just maybe.

Gym Rats

Last week, I pondered an entire entry about the cast of characters I've observed in the gym over the past few months. I was gonna do multiple character sketches in one big entry. It seemed an overwhelming task, so I think I'll just keep it short and sweet and profile a new personality every few days or weeks.

My first installment is devoted to The Readers. You've probably seen 'em before at the gym. These are the people that work out and read. I don't think there's just one thing that drives The Readers to exercise and read simultaneously. I think different Readers take the risk for different reasons.

I imagine some fancy themselves way too important to devote a half hour+ to one non-intellectual activity. Too smart, too important, and too overloaded to focus on the exercise, they've gotta multi-task and fit in some catch-up reading during their time on the treadmill or stationary bike. There's simply NO EXTRA TIME in their day to devote to something silly like exercising the body separate from the mind. How could they? They're just THAT important.

I imagine others are simply too bored with their time on these mind-numbing exercise machines to NOT distract themselves with a little reading. They've got other options like iPods, TVs, or other folks in the gym to grab their attention, but I guess it's like they say, "You can take the worm out of the book, but you can't take the book out of the worm!" Wait, do they say that? Anyhow, I kinda can't blame these folks for requiring some distraction, as the machines at the gym, and particularly the way these folks use them, are about as thrilling as watching paint dry.

So you've got the type-A multi-taskers and the gym zombies...each reading for their own reasons.

Here's what gets me. How the f*ck are you getting much of a workout in if you're focused on a book or a magazine or the newspaper? I've noticed these readers are the same people who can spend an hour in the gym and walk away as dry as they were when they came in from the 30 degree winter weather. This is hard for me to stomach. My heart rate hovers in the 160+ range for upwards of thirty minutes for every hour I spend on the trainer and I probably sweat about 4 litres of liquid each time I visit the gym. I'm always dumbfounded by these people who can finish a few chapters of the latest Tom Clancy novel whilst "working out" and don't sweat a drop after 45 minutes on the stationary bike.

Anyhow....this rant is barely coming together. Point being, what the hell are you doing reading in the gym? Either commit to getting a workout in or stay at home in your bed or on your couch curled up with your novel or whatever.

Last week, I saw some dummy waltz in on a Tuesday with the entire Sunday Post. I watched her navigate onto the elliptical (otherwise known as the epilyptical) machine with the every section of the paper...including the plastic-wrapped coupons and comics section. I couldn't believe my eyes. Was this idiot really gonna try to make it through the Sunday paper all the while grinding out the miles on the epilyptical? I watched her nearly bite it three or four times. She was never discouraged and never appeared to think twice about her arrangement. I ran through the exchange she might have with the EMTs. "I dunno what happened. There I was, reading the engagements and weddings in the Style section when, BLAM, I rolled a cankle!" If only.

In closing, pick an activity and stick with it you morons!!

Next time...coke head freaks.